Welcome to Amateur vs. Expert, a new column wherein noted anime layperson Nick Robinson (Babylonian) squares off against anime savant Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt). The goal? To take our two columns, Anime Amateur and Anime Examiner, and combine them for your reading pleasure. Let's get started!
First of all, let's get this out of the way: the fact that this episode was called anything other than "Yu and Ai" is probably the biggest oversight of 2011. Like, seriously! So obvious!
That said, I thought this otherwise was a pretty good, highly efficient episode. By rolling Kou Ichijo and Ai Ebihara's sidestories into one episode, they were able to get two of the S-Link stories out of the way at once. Dedicating an entire episode early on to non-essential social link stuff pretty much gets them off the hook for the rest of the series, but no one can accuse them of underutilizing the characters, because we just got 25 minutes of nonstop Ai and Kou stuff.
Still, I could have used a bit more inadvertent, Tobias Fünke-like ball humor from Kou. Maybe next time. What was your take on this episode, Kris?
This series has had some pretty unbelieving things going on, and I'm able to brush it all aside. This episode crossed the line. To think that you could have two high school girls smacking each other around at a basketball game and only one person noticed...... Inconceivable!! Seriously, I have to admit that seeing Ai get so pissed that she smacks Chie across the face was quite the shock, then Chie gave her one back. In the game, Ai was interested in Daisuke Nagase, and Kou never mentioned liking Chie. Which is perfectly fine in trying to condense the narrative. Seeing how they Rank 10ed these social links in a single episode. It makes me wonder how S.Links will go for Yu with the main female cast.
This episode felt sort of along the lines of a comedy sitcom, but it was nice given all the recent angst and symbolism we've had. I don't mind the drop in action for an episode to tell a story, and it also means more Persona to see for the future. We can see there is a payoff to these events. I just find it more awkward that the real plot relevant event was placed after the ending credit. Though, the series has had these scenes after the end theme long enough that no one should be surprised about it.
I would like to draw some attention to one aspect of the episode. I noticed that Ai Ebihara really liked to toss around the word "ai" and wanted Yu to use it. That's not a word that gets tossed around in the Japanese language lightly. More often you will hear people use the term "suki", which means "like". If you want to be more passionate. You'd say "daisuki", which would mean "really like". Using "aishiteru" is basically telling someone that you are seriously in love with them.
Dag, that's something I never would have picked up on! Between that and your past observations about their motivations for naming the protagonist Yu, it seems totally possible that the "Yu and Ai" wordplay was deliberate. Bravo, P4A producers!
Like you alluded to, this was a violent-ass episode. Between the totally odd Ai vs. Chie catfight and Dojima straight up punching Adachi in his head, there was a lot of cast-on-cast injury this week. That slap war during the (fantastic-looking) climactic basketball scene did stand out to me as weird, but for whatever reason, the fact that no one but Yosuke noticed didn't seem that strange. It was just a practice game, so it's not like there was anyone there but the players and the two managers, right? Still, if you want to talk about how totally crazy it was that Chie and Ai's first interaction with each other ever was an actual physical altercation, then yeah, I'm right there with you, brother.
You're right that the only real plot stuff in this episode was in the post-credits bit, which is strange, but like a friend of mine pointed out, the truly upsetting thing about this episode's ending is how they totally glossed over this scene. Unforgivable! Still, I thought Yu's exhausted sigh at the end of the episode proper was a pretty great character moment for the guy. As much distaste as I have for him as a lead character, it's perfectly in line with his personality so far that getting caught up in the middle of all this weird drama would be nothing but draining for the poor dude. It was a nice touch, I thought.
Oh, you know what's totally worth bringing up? This episode was our first formal introduction to Aika Nakamura, a brand-new character created specifically for P4A! She's a classmate at Yasogami High and the heir to the Aiya Chinese restaurant, and while I doubt she'll play any sort of hugely significant role in the main plot of the game, I'm also sure we haven't seen the last of her. She doesn't really have any personality to speak of yet, but honestly, if we get to learn through her about the awesome guy who runs the shop in the game, that alone will make her a valuable addition to the show.
For all the increasingly bold changes they're making to the Persona 4 we know and love, they've also maintained their slavish devotion to duplicating the game. To me, that's a good thing and a bad thing. I mean, I still really don't like Yu as a protagonist; he's awkward and weirdly quiet, and it's tough to buy the other characters acting like he's anything other than a blank slate. Seeing the colorful, intense personalities that make up the cast of this game fawning over this whispery, uninteresting grey-haired kid is a little off-putting.
On the other side of that, they know who this show is for, and as a result, there's tons of great fan touches: the fact that Yu had "Love is Over" from Catherine as his ringtone for Ai is a fantastic touch in a lot of ways. Likewise, it seems like pretty much every over-the-head emote from the game made an appearance in this episode: the sweat drop, the flowers, the frustration squiggles. I'm still wrestling with the idea that if I wasn't a Persona 4 fan going in, I would not care about this show at all, but since that isn't the case, I'll continue to happily shovel this fanservice mélange right into my eyes' mouths.
Oh, I loved that scene of Dojima just popping Adachi in the head. It's all a little slap stick, but it was honestly funny. I thought the cat fight showed me even more why I like Chie. This episode summed up Ai and Kou's S.Link to Level 10 within an episode. It has me wondering if the series will be touching on any of the S.Links with Yu and any of the main female cast. Before, I would have said no way, but this series has made it a practice to go beyond my expectations. Will there be a Christmas night scene with someone?
That is kind of interesting that they would introduce a new character to this Persona 4 cast not from the game. It's curious, but Yosuke seemed to know her. As I think about it, there were a lot of gaps in time for the Persona 4 game that there was nothing to do. It was time for S.Linking and jobs. I wonder if they would be creating some more Midnight Channel adventures for the anime with this new addition.
I would like to think that if this wasn't based on a great game that I'd still be watching it. Though, I'm a big fan of murder mysteries. Having Yu being being so dead pan I think makes him a great character to play off all these personalities. He's the straight man. He has some great lines, and I still think he'll becomes a bit more emotional as the series goes on.
In conclusion, we were given a fun episode that got some laughs out of me. It's showing they aren't following the game's story to the letter, and there are some who will rant that's a good or bad thing. I like that this isn't trying to be a one for one translation from the game. It gives us a chance to enjoy the side stories mixed in with the main plot without taking up too much time. As I've already said, these stories also mean we could get to see more Persona in the future. Now, we toss it off to the readers. What were your thoughts?